GW awarded scholarships to eight seniors from D.C. public high schools Tuesday during a luncheon at the University Club.
The 1999 Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship Program, formerly called the 21st Century Scholars program, will give eight young women more than a million dollars in scholarship funds over four years. The scholarship money goes toward full tuition, room and board, books and fees.
The University has given 56 scholarships to high school students through the program since Trachtenberg initiated it 10 years ago. This year’s recipients come from six area high schools, and Trachtenberg said it is a coincidence that they are all women.
Trachtenberg said the scholarships were partially a result of selfish motives of the University’s Board of Trustees and himself.
“We don’t want these kids going out of state, settling out of state,” he said. “We want them right here at GW and right here in D.C. In fact with this scholarship program, we bring in students from other areas basically so D.C. students can come for free.”
The students who will receive the scholarships were introduced to the crowd at the University Club by their high school guidance counselors, and one counselor called them “the best and brightest of D.C.’s future.”
The winners expressed diverse interests and boasted a myriad of talents.
Shelby Jean Braxton-Brooks, who attends the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, was a student ambassador to France. She also has danced with the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Laura Joan Kemoli, from Eastern High School, is an airman first class in the Civil Air Patrol, and she has been out of her native Kenya for only two years. Kemoli said she is interested in pursuing a business degree at GW.
Zineb Benkirane of Woodrow Wilson Senior High School is fluent in four languages, is a dual Moroccan-U.S. citizen and works for Amnesty International.
Out of the eight students chosen, five already have interned with an agency or organization in D.C.
Many of the winners said Tuesday’s awards ceremony meant they would breathe easier.
“I’ve been applying to scholarships left and right,” said Linda Rivera, who attends the School Without Walls.
Although she scored a 1310 on the SATs, has a 3.98 grade point average, and ranks third in her class, she was “really, really nervous” about her chances of receiving the scholarship.
Ngar Yu, valedictorian of the School Without Walls, also was a recipient of the scholarship. Yu, who is fluent in Chinese and interns at Thomson Elementary School, said “it seemed like forever” before she was notified two weeks ago that she had been chosen.
“My heart skipped a beat,” Yu said.
The other scholarship recipients are Michelle Deal and Fatima Pashaei of Benjamin Banneker Senior High School, and Tanisha Robinson of Eastern.
Yu has been accepted to several Boston colleges, but she said she was happy to stay in D.C.
“I feel very fortunate to the Board and to President Trachtenberg,” she said. “A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”